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Military Takes Proactive Approach Toward Soldiers' Health

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FORT BRAGG, N.C. — There are still few answers to the military health mystery known as Gulf War syndrome. The military is now taking a pro-active approach to tracking the health of troops returning from Operation Iraqi Freedom and even Afghanistan.

Things are extremely busy at Fort Bragg's Soldier Support Center. Soldiers are being asked four pages of questions about their deployment and they are getting their blood drawn.

The Pentagon has made the health screenings mandatory for all servicemembers who served in support of the war on terrorism. The screenings are the military's approach to better combat the problems faced by thousands of soldiers during the first Gulf War.

"We had lots of problems getting our arms around Desert Storm syndrome and figuring out did they get sick while over there, sick when they came back, so this is a much more detailed evaluation," said Col. Greg Jolissaint, deputy commander of clinical services.

The soldiers' blood samples will be kept in storage for up to 20 years. If common symptoms arise, they will have the samples to do research on.

Sgt. Russell Price just returned from Afghanistan and supports the process. Even though he does not believe troops were exposed to any chemical or biological weapons, he does have concerns about the desert dust.

"It had E. coli and all kinds of stuff you were consistently breathing in, so it will be interesting to see what comes up respiratory-wise in the long term," he said.

Service members have 30 days to complete the new health evaluations once they return from Iraq or Afghanistan. Just a couple days ago, several British troops who fought in Operation Iraqi Freedom complained about mysterious illnesses.